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East Perth's William "Digger" Thomas

Arthur "Barney" Sheedy (Old Easts)

​"Ike" Allen (East Perth)

Len Cinoris (East Fremantle)

In 1918 East Perth enjoyed their best season since joining the WAFA, as it was known then, in 1906. The Royals won the minor premiership, and with it the right of challenge in the finals, having lost just 2 of their 15 home and away matches.[1] In the first semi final they trounced South Fremantle by 55 points, 12.16 (88) to 3.5 (23). However, two weeks later they came unstuck in the final against East Fremantle, going down by 26 points. Invoking their right of challenge therefore on Saturday 21st September the Royals prepared to take on Old Easts at Subiaco Oval to determine the destiny of the 1918 premiership.

Already by 1918 East Fremantle had begun to develop an enviable tradition having won a total of ten flags since entering the competition in 1898. In 1918 Old Easts were hoping it would be third time lucky after losing out to South Fremantle in both 1916 and 1917. In 1918 they qualified for the finals in second place with a 10-5 record and then ousted semi final opponents Perth from premiership contention with an 8.8 (56) to 4.8 (32) win. As mentioned above they then scored a solid win over East Perth in the final setting up a challenge final re-match with the Royals a week later.

“The day was ideal, and the vast crowd of onlookers were treated to a strenuous and spectacular display of our winter pastime.”[2]

Conditions may have been ideal from the point of view of spectators, but as far as the players were concerned it was uncomfortably warm. Despite this, the two teams managed to put on a show which was always interesting and seldom less than captivating.  Indeed, in the view of some it was the best finals match seen in the West for several years,[3] with absolutely nothing separating the teams for the first three quarters.

East Perth had the aid of a fairly strong breeze in the opening term and they raced into attack from the first bounce and soon had the first score - a behind - on the board courtesy of Slattery. Shortly afterwards Harrold took a mark on the wing and secured another minor score with a thumping kick. 

At this period in time East Perth were known interchangeably as the Royal Blues and Young East (Old East, of course, being East Fremantle). With Phil Matson in dominant form they continued to press forward and after two fairly easy shots had been missed Hayes marked near to goal and made no mistake.

Old Easts responded forcibly and after attacking for some minutes they opened their account with a goal from Rawlinson. The play was extremely fast at this stage, with both teams squandering some relatively easy scoring chances before exchanging goals. East Fremantle also notched a behind making the scores 2.1 apiece. After Hayes had missed an easy chance for East Perth Old Easts took the ball straight to the other end of the ground and Cinoris kicked truly.

The closing minutes of the quarter saw East Perth in control and by the time the bell sounded they had added a goal courtesy of Slattery plus three behinds to lead at the first change by 3 points, 3.4 (22) to 3.1 (19).

With the wind at their backs Old Easts opened the second term brightly but a minor score was all they could manage. East Perth responded with a series of quick attacks which yielded a behind and a major score, the latter off the boot of Harrold. Play was now see-sawing between one side and the other. East Fremantle took up the baton next and soon had a goal on the board, kicked by Lawn. Then it was East Perth’s turn and a six pointer to “Digger” Thomas restored their narrow advantage. Not to be outdone, Old Easts responded determinedly, and after a couple of near misses Riconi and Sheedy in quick succession registered full points to make the half time scores East Fremantle 6.4 (40) to East Perth 5.4 (34).

East Perth surged into attack at the beginning of the third quarter and a scored goal from “Digger” Thomas soon had them back on level terms. Old Easts responded with a sustained period of attacking which culminated in a goal to Gallagher. Not long afterwards Clinoris converted from a set shot and East Fremantle had nosed in front by a goal. After both sides had added behinds to their tallies the Royals again levelled the scores when Bayes goaded after a fine passage of play which saw the ball conveyed the length of the ground. The bell sounded soon after with both teams on 8.5 (53) - anybody’s game on the face of it, but Old Easts would be kicking with the aid of a strong breeze in the final quarter.

“In the final term the seasiders took charge from the bounce, and it was soon seen that their superior condition and weight were too much for their now tiring opponents.”[4] Shortly after the resumption Sheedy registered full points putting Old Easts a goal to the good, and although the Royals tried desperately to fight back East Fremantle’s defence stood firm. Then, when Old Easts next attacked, Cinoris claimed his fourth goal of the encounter, and after that the heads of the East Perth players seemed to droop. Lawn added East Fremantle’s eleventh goal soon afterwards and the match was as good as won. When the bell sounded the scoreboard showed East Fremantle with a 21 point advantage, 11.8 (74) to 8.5 (53), with East Perth having failed to trouble the scorers at all in the final term.

Best for the victors were defender Brown, half forward flanker Sheedy, wingman Bell, half forward Rawlinson and forward pocket Cinoris. The Royals were best served by follower Slattery, centreman Matson who outpointed a fine opponent in “Nipper” Truscott, rover Gepp and wingman Allen.

“When the customary hot-air was released at the close of hostilities Captain Truscott paid tribute to the victorious 18s’ trainers, and he hit the very pupil of the bullseye when he mentioned that stamina accounted for East Perth finishing second. No doubt the better - only a shade the better - team won on the day, and East Perth’s president (Harry Mann) was the first to admit it. It was a clean, open game throughout, and Crapp’s firmness in stopping an exchange of knuckles was only twice in evidence.”[5]

East Fremantle were deserving and popular premiers, but East Perth’s time in the sun would not be long in coming.


FOOTNOTES

[1] East Perth had previously finished top of the ladder in 1910, but with an inferior win-loss record to 1918. They had ultimately finished second after losing the premiership deciding match to East Fremantle.

[2] “Old Timer” writing in the “Westralian Worker”, 27/9/18, page 8. The attendance of the match was given as 7,000 which constituted a record.

[3] See, for instance, “The West Australian”, 23/9/18, page 7.

[4] Ibid, page 7.

[5] “Sunday Times”, 22/9/18, page 2.

Old versus Young: - WAFL Challenge Final, Saturday 21st September 1918: East Fremantle versus East Perth at Subiaco Oval